Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet / By Marcel Feldmar
No longer the mystery band from nowhere
Well, there we were… hanging out at the Railway Club, drinking iced coffee, talking about whatever fell into the conversation, and listening to the Blue Shadows soundcheck. Reid, Brian, Don, and me with a crappy tape recorder. You may know them as the "Kids In The Hall" musicians, but they are much more. With hit songs like "The Alouette, She Was Canada's First Satellite, Way Before The Americans Even", "Faster, Santa Claus, Ho Ho Ho", and "We're Not A Fucking Surf Band", the Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet are instrumental Canadian mayhem mongers who have been raging like upstream swimming trout since 1985, and will continue to do so for years to come. Sort of a heavy mellow country surf pop twang band twisted into an intelligent profoundness. Their music is too meaningful to include lyrics. So what did we talk about? I'll tell ya!
Brian: Y'know, camping while on tour is a true test of a hearty Canadian band… We're not a hearty Canadian band.
Don: We don't even camp when we camp!
Brian: Reid does… we're a big fan of motels.
The conversation drifts somehow to Art Bergman and the film Highway 61… loved that chicken-shooting scene.
Reid: Hey, does Mecca Normal play around here much?
MF: Haven't seen them lately.
R: Like their new album a lot.
D: Ray Gun magazine did this big thing on them, you know, with its totally stylized design…
R: Which one?
D: You know! We were looking at it, and you said you couldn't read it…
R: Oh, that one.
D: It was totally out of Rolling Stone. The typeface, the layout, everything on that page an exact duplicate. I, for a second, thought, "Wow, Mecca Normal in Rolling Stone," wait… why is there a page from Rolling Stone in Ray Gun? Anwyay, David Lester (of Mecca Normal) said "For anyone to start liking us now who didn't like us before is total bullshit because we're just the same band we always were, just making the same record over and over."
MF: I just picked up your Sport Fishing…
R: Speaking of making the same record over and over…
MF: No, I mean, listening to some of your earlier stuff, like on the It Came From Canada compilations or wherever, your sound has definitely improved. Maybe it was the Albini production, but it seems… not heavier, but… deeper.
D: Yeah, it doesn't have any smallness to it.
B: That was the nice thing about the record. It really did turn out a lot like the way we wanted it. It sounded exactly the same way in did in the room we were playing it in.
MF: The other ones didn't?
B: Well, the other ones we didn't know as much about the whole recording process as we do now.
R: The first two albums sounded good on small machines like a boom box or radio, but this one is best on a real stereo.
MF: Are you coming out with any new singles?
R: Yeah, one should be out in a couple of weeks.
B: On a new label out of Montreal called Derivative.
D: A 7" label started by a couple of guys from Brave New Waves. They're gonna put out singles by the Doughboys, Bliss, Change Of Heart…
MF: I like the singles, because if you get a tape there's all these songs, and you really have no idea which song it is, but with a single it's either this one or that one.
R: You'd never figure it out… never thought of that.
B: It should be out on vinyl soon, that would be better than a tape, but they're a bit slow in getting that going. We can wait though, we're all big on vinyl.
R: And all those people who got rid of their turntables? Almost all of my friends did… "Oh, I don't have one anymore"… what, like it took up too much space or something?
B: I don't understand that.
R: Really, I'll make all my records obsolete by getting rid of my turntable.
B: What's the point of putting out a record if it's not this thing you can hold and read for hours on end.
MF: Cool inserts.
MF: So where were you here last?
MF: Did you go over well in London?
D: Yeah, really well. It was pretty surprising. People yelling out song titles; we did two packed shows. Here we fell into a round of band name slinging, Shadowy faves like the Leather Uppers, Chicken Milk, Grasshopper… and how Toronto is on an upswing; a lot of people going out and supporting the scene, and what the hell is with this Seventies shit?
B: The '70s are really big in London, not too bad in Toronto, luckily.
D: I went to the Butthole Surfers picnic thing here, and I've never seen so many wide pants in my life. It was so uniform it was unbelievable. Half the people there looked exactly the same. I like to imagine there's this large entity hovering about the Earth going, "Look! They fell for it again!"
The Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet will hit Vancouver on July 24 at the Commodore to do a little…